What's Tony Thinking

Career Civil Servants vs. The Whiner-in-Chief


Remember Ronald Reagan’s big applause line?

‘What are the scariest words in the English language? ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.'”

That cheap shot started the war on government, or inaugurated a new version of it, in the early 80’s. It has led us to where we are now with a Donald Trump who actively undermines our government.

In between Reagan and Trump we’ve had countless elected and non-elected officials taking their cues from “I want to reduce the size of the government to something small enough to wash down the drain” Grover Nordquist. Remember him and his no-tax pledge?

So this column is my praise and gratitude for honest and dedicated civil servants and members of the U. S. foreign service who have carried on amid decades of such foolishness and denigration.

Case in point is Bill Taylor, acting ambassador to the Ukraine, who has given the most explicit and damning testimony yet regarding Trump’s attempts to use our government to further his own political ambitions.

Praise is due as well to Marie Yovanovitz, the former ambassador to the Ukraine who was forced out, because she wasn’t only concerned about corruption in the Ukraine, but corruption in America. By all accounts she was an exemplary foreign service officer.

And then there is the anonymous “whistle-blower” who had the courage to get the whole thing rolling.

All of these decent, dedicated, courageous civil servants work for the government, and I for one am deeply grateful that they have been “here to help.”

Meanwhile, the Whiner-in-Chief calls Ambassador Yovanovitz “nasty” (his code word for any woman who dares stand up to him) and whines, absolutely incredibly, about the impeachment inquiry as a “lynching.”

If there’s one moral lesson that church and responsible parents would bring home to young people it is, “Take responsibility when you have screwed up. Don’t blame someone else. Learn to say ‘I’m sorry, I will do better’ when you are at fault.” Shouldering the burden of responsibility is what mature, moral adults do.

Donald Trump, during the 2016 campaign, described himself as a Christian but allowed as how he had never needed to be forgiven because he had never done anything wrong. The latter not only disqualifies him as a Christian, a fellowship of the forgiven, but should have been a flashing red light to those evangelical Christians who claim him as their guy.

No, Trump is not a person capable of accepting responsibility for his failures and evil. It is always someone else’s fault. Always. He’s a whiner.

During the Clinton impeachment, the Republicans and evangelicals repeated mantra was “Character counts.” Well, character is shown not by whining and blaming, but by accepting responsibility when at fault.

We are really in a moral struggle, a battle of good versus evil, in America today. I do not equate one party or the other with good or evil. It’s more complex than that, but still the nature of the moment is a struggle between good and evil.

And the real heroes are the decent, professional, honest, courageous men and women like Bill Taylor and Marie Yovanovitz who have soldiered on in the face of the steady assault and downward spiral that extends from Reagan to Trump. The word “hero” is thrown about casually. These government workers are the real, unsung, heroes. They are the true patriots. Thank God for them and others like them.

My father was a career civil servant with the Interior Department and then Geological Survey. Out of loyalty and respect for him, I wrote to Reagan early in his administration protesting his attacks on the civil service and pointing out how crucial an honest and reliable civil service is to the health of a nation. If you don’t think that’s true try living in a country, there are plenty of them, where bribing public officials is the way to get things done.

We are seeing the importance of a honorable civil service play out now, day by day, with the understated courage of people like William B. Taylor.


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